Published By: Shriparna

Science of gastronomy! How our senses of taste evolves and adapts

As people get older, they become less reliant on a food item's taste profile.

Some food are defined by decades. They perish with time but leave an impression among the young. People who grew up during the 90s have fond memories of flavours available during those times it’s unlikely that they would enjoy them today. The taste receptors that are designed to adapt to the environment around us are constantly evolving. Scientists are also learning more about how these changes affect our tastes.

How we taste

Around 10,000 taste buds are located on a person's tongue, and the roof and sides of their mouth also have taste buds. Each taste bud contains around 30 to 50 cells, and these cells have a short lifespan. They replenishes about every two weeks.

We can detect four basic tastes: sweet, bitter, salty, and sour. The receptor for each of these tastes is located in the tongue. In the 1990s, some scientists believed that certain parts of the tongue were designed to respond to specific tastes. However, studies have shown that the receptor for each taste is scattered throughout the entire tongue. The two nerves that are responsible for facilitating tastes are the glossopharyngeal and chorda tympani.

When Na+ gets into a person's mouth and bites into a salty French fry, it triggers the release of transmitters within the taste receptor cell. Similarly, when a bitter food, such as olive oil, gets into the receptor, it triggers Ca2+ ions to enter the cell. According to scientists, our taste perception and memory dictate how we encode certain tastes.

Evolving tastes

Although a kid who ate the sweets from their Halloween haul might not be able to enjoy a sugar-free life, scientists have noted that their taste buds are capable of adapting to different tastes. For instance, sweet and ripe fruit provide people with more nutrients.

The taste of sweet begins to decline in late adolescence. Likewise, people in their early 20s and 30s stop caring about fruity and grape-flavored snacks.

As people get older, they become less reliant on a food item's taste profile. Our perception and memory allow us to try new food items.

For instance, a person may learn that bitter tastes are not harmful after eating Brussels sprouts. This could encourage them to try more bitter tastes.

As people get older, their sense of smell also begins to decline. But people can still adapt to their tastes and enjoy eating and drinking throughout their lives. However, the problem is that certain medications can hinder the ability of taste cells to function properly.